Reimagining Judging

My focus in this short essay is only on sentencing. A judge’s role is different at sentencing than her role at other points in a criminal trial, or in other contexts.

The stakes are the highest; it is when state power confronts a person’s liberty. And I write for the most part about what I know best, which is federal sentencing. Federal sentencing has changed over the past forty years and with it the judge’s role. It has seesawed from a period when the purpose of sentencing was rehabilitation, and a judge had virtually unlimited discretion to sentence (Gertner 2010). It then moved to a more recent period when a judge’s power was more strictly cabined by mandatory minimum sentences, and mandatory Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Finally, it has shifted to the present which is—at least on the surface—some combination of both. Today, there is space for more judicial discretion. On the surface, that change—increasing judicial discretion—looks promising.

More judicial discretion might well be an antidote to treating people as Guideline categories or cogs in a three-strikes machine. Reformers sometimes assume that when judges focus on an individual, they will necessarily consider their humanity and the social context of the crime, all factors that have largely been ignored during the past thirty years. But there are reasons to be skeptical.

Access the article at the link below:

squareonejustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/CJLJ9284-Reimagining-Judging-report-211215-WEB.pdf

2022 RIPA Board Report

The California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (Board) is pleased to release its fifth annual Report. The Report contains an analysis of the millions of police and pedestrian stops conducted in 2020 under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (“RIPA”) by 18 law enforcement agencies, including the 15 largest agencies, in California. The Report closely examines a wide range of issue areas related to racial and identity profiling, providing context and research to deepen stakeholders’ understanding of the stop data collected under the RIPA. In the Executive Summary, the Board provides an overview of the Report. For ease of reference, there is a separate Recommendations and Best Practices section pulling out the Board’s recommendations in 2022. The Board encourages law enforcement agencies, policymakers, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), community advocates, and individuals to use these recommendations and best practices as a platform for discussion and implementation of reforms that will improve public safety in California. The Board especially recognizes that the community is essential to any police reform and that agencies and government should include diverse community members to work in close partnership with them to improve police services in their communities and across California.


Download the full 2022 Report

The California State Attorney General Office can be found HERE

Past RIPA reports are available HERE

A letter to the American public: There is no such thing as ‘the least’ amount of physical force

The notion of the least amount of force sounds nice, which makes it deceptively easy to believe – however, the concept is inherently flawed
Check out the article. It lays out an interesting discussion on how Use of Force is supposed to be determined when following the laws and policies.
See the article HERE

Here are the five “game changers” for policing this year.

Police 1 has an excellent article about the major issues that impacted Law Enforcement in 2021. See their list below (or you can see the list at their website.)

What do you think? Anything missing?

1. COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic dominated 2021 just as it did the previous year, and it probably doesn’t come as a shock that it tops this list. Tragically, it continues to be the #1 killer of law enforcement officers. According to ODMP, COVID-19 has taken the lives of 289 officers (as of December 2), vastly outnumbering the second and third-leading causes (57 to gunfire, 21 to automobile crashes). This year’s numbers also surpass the total number of COVID LODDs in all of 2020 (253).

The deadly threat also continued to disrupt other areas of the profession. Academy classes were canceled, training events were moved online and major conferences were postponed. But arguably the biggest disruption was over vaccines. Cities like New York and Chicago sparred with unions over mandates for city workers, leading to resignations and legal battles. As departments waited for staff to get inoculated, some, like Seattle PD, had to alter their already-strained staffing model to account for the absences.

Some leaders pushed back; in LA County, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he wouldn’t enforce the mandate, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy invited cops fired over mandates to join PDs in his state, and a sheriff in Washington pulled his SROs from schools over the issue.

No matter what happens come 2022, we are likely to see the ripple effects of this pandemic long after the case numbers dwindle. 

2. HOMICIDE SPIKES

Upticks in certain types of crime – particularly murders – were being reported back in 2020 and that trend, while not as high a spike as was seen last year, has continued to be alarming in some areas in 2021. The New York Times reported the homicide rate, which had its biggest spike last year since record-keeping began in 1960, was still trending up in 2021. Portland (Oregon) broke a grim record for the most homicides in a single year. Austin (Texas) also reached an all-time high. Cities like Las Vegas and San Diego are also grappling with a homicide spike

“Let’s please untie the hands of our law enforcement officers,” Don Osborn, a relative of a victim slain in Portland, told the AP. “I believe if the proper tools were in place for our law enforcement officers, this wouldn’t even have happened.”

Further complicating the issue is PDs facing mounting staffing shortages that they have been struggling with for years. In Portland this year, the city saw fewer cops per person than at any other point in the past 30 years. In Austin and other cities, PDs have been forced to re-route non-emergency calls due to severe staffing woes

3. POLICE-FREE CALLS

In the wake of the George Floyd protests last year, many cities looked at potential reform that would fundamentally change how police officers responded to certain calls or remove them from specific duties entirely – from traffic enforcement to non-violent incidents to “unarmed” response units. Among these, the reform policy that gained the most traction was changing how cities responded to mental health calls, either making them police-free or sending a police officer in tandem with a mental health professional to someone in crisis; the experiment has returned interesting results thus far.

Denver, which has had a form of the program since 2018, saw enough success that New York City modeled its efforts after them. The pilot program, called B-HEARD, reported early results this year. They found subjects accepted help in 95% of cases when mental health workers were involved, compared to 85% when police alone responded.

Other cities are following suit in growing numbers this year, with places like San Mateo (California), Chicago, and Garden Grove (California) launching similar programs. If the success of these pilots continues, it’s likely that more and more cities will adopt this approach. 

4. THE DEREK CHAUVIN VERDICT

The George Floyd case sparked an important conversation about policing in the United States, and the Derek Chauvin verdict undoubtedly will strengthen calls for reform, for better or worse.

Duty to intercede and other self-policing training like early intervention and active bystandership are just some of the hot topics cities are exploring or already have implemented into police policy to develop a culture of accountability in law enforcement.

On the other hand, some reform efforts implemented over the last two years have seen results that have leaders rethinking the changes, which leads us to our last game changer of 2021…

5. FROM DEFUNDING TO REFUNDING

This year, some communities started to think twice about the police reform they approved, particularly when it comes to the “defund” movement. In Oakland (California), Mayor Libby Schaaf said she’d push to reverse funding cuts to the police department and hire more officers as the city grappled with a crime spike.

It was a similar story in other cities. In Portland, officials approved millions in funds for law enforcement amid the city’s record shootings and homicides. In Minneapolis, the site of the George Floyd killing and epicenter for the ensuing summer of nationwide protests, voters shied away from the most radical calls for reform – voting against the removal of the Minneapolis Police Department. Meanwhile, in an effort to address the dwindling numbers of police officers in cities across the nation, the DOJ recently handed out $139 million in grant funding.

Denver Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety

Overview: The Task Force to Reimaging Policing and Public Safety is a community based initiative arising out of the tragic aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on May  25, 2020 in Minneapolis and the subsequent nationwide Black Lives Matter solidarity protests demanding the structural transformation of policing. This Task Force is the result of conversations from recent town halls with community members, faith leaders, service  providers, elected officials and Denver Department of Public Safety to move toward  action and healing.

At the website there are several videos from the different task force meetings and several different reports available (including the Task Force Report). Take some to explore what the website has to offer.

The website can be accessed HERE
The Task Force report can be accessed HERE